The September LSAT is less than 6 months away, and I just watched Miracle for the first time. That happy confluence of events produced this: a roughly 6-month study plan for the LSAT that mirrors the approach Team USA took in preparing to face the reigning 4-time Olympic hockey champions. I want you to study smarter—adopting only the best strategies that will get you the most gain—and harder: putting in the work of many practice problems to get faster, leaner, & yes, meaner on the test (see the section on attitude below). Now, you might be thinking what the skeptical USA Hockey official said when he heard Coach Brooks’s plan in Miracle, “Walter, we don’t have years, we have months.” The good news is that’s enough time to put the following plan into action. Also, don’t call me Walter.
Step 1: Study Logic (~1 month)
Think about all the years of drills, all the walking around pushing a ball with a broom that the hopeful players trying out for Team USA had put in before even reaching tryouts. They were developing the particular skills and instincts necessary to excel at their sport. Logical thinking is the equivalent of those fine motor skills for the LSAT, and you’re going to acquire that life’s experience in a month (well not really, because you’ve been practicing logical thinking your whole life—this is just clarifying and giving you rules for it).
If you’ve never formally studied propositional and predicate logic before (at the university level), do so now. It will give you an unbeatable foundation for the test. If you can’t take a full course, watching the following videos and making sure you understand them completely is almost as good.
This video on phrasal logic is 50% of what you need.
These three videos on prepositional logic get you to 75%:
and the first 15 minutes of this one,
and the first 14 minutes of this one.
That’s roughly 1 hour of video. The remaining 25% is practice applying the rules of logic. I’d suggest practice problems from The Logic Book by Bergmann and Moore, or any other symbolic logic textbook. Do a few of the more challenging proofs--it’s excellent exercise of your problem solving skills.
Step 2: Take a diagnostic test
Tryouts (sort of). The good news is everyone moves on from these. Think of this as a chance to see how far you have to go before the real tryouts (applications).
Take a full-length, timed diagnostic LSAT. LSAC offers a free one here.
Figure out what your target LSAT score is by looking at the median scores at the schools you’re interested in or talking to an admissions coach at Cambridge Coaching. Figure out how big a jump you need to make to be competitive—if it’s more than 5-6 points, think about taking a course or getting a tutor.
Step 3: Gather Data (1-2 months)
You know how Coach Brooks tried different combinations of three people to see who had the best chemistry (and so discovered the “coneheads” line)? That’s you at this stage, finding the strategies that work for you and where your biggest weaknesses are.
Start to take regular (at this point, probably once every 2-3 weeks) timed tests. Afterwards, go back and, untimed, redo the problems you didn’t have time to answer or were uncertain about. Keep track of which questions you got wrong and whether it was on the timed go-through or untimed. Importantly, keep track of the types of questions giving you trouble. There are different taxonomies of LSAT questions, both for Logical Reasoning and for the games. For LR, I like either the classifications in Powerscore’s Logical Reasoning Bible or in Nathan Fox’s Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia.
In between these practice tests, start consciously adopting strategies specific to the LSAT. Make your main focus Logical Reasoning—there are two LR sections as opposed to only one reading comprehension and one logic games, and improving at LR will help you with those other sections as well. You can learn strategies from a tutor/class or from a book like Powerscore. This “step” will continue throughout your studying as you refine your strategies.
Step 3.5: Develop an attitude
Most books and coaches will suggest the following as one strategy: When eliminating answer choices, argue to yourself why answer choices are wrong rather than why they’re right. To do this, it helps to take an antagonistic attitude towards the LSAT. You want to be viciously discarding answer choices come test day (as long as you’re doing so accurately). Fox’s book is infused with this attitude.
Step 4: Ramp up the training (~3 months)
Legs may feed the wolf, but your “legs” are your mental operating capacities. The LSAT is a marathon, but timing is also an issue for most takers. Taking one full length timed test a week will help you build the endurance necessary to beat the LSAT writers on test day, in the final section, when your brain is turning to mush. Continue to gather data on which problems are hardest for you, how many problems you’re not even getting to, etc. Do return to solve difficult problems untimed.
Outside of these weekly tests, start practicing reading comprehension and logic games (always timed). You need to be getting to the point where games take about 6-9 minutes each. Check out our blog for strategies on logic games.
Finally, do things that support a healthy life and brain, including exercise and meditation.
Step 5: Crush it.
Are you interested in getting set up with an LSAT tutor as soon as tomorrow? We offer in person tutoring in Boston and New York, and online anywhere in the world.
Feel the need to read more? Check out some of our previous blog posts on the LSAT below!